Legislative hearing: Are the Delta tunnels good for California? (part 1 of 2)

Senator Wolk leads a hearing on the Delta tunnels: The Legislative Analyst’s Office first briefs the legislators; Dr. Christina Swanson and Sacramento Supervisor Don Nottoli provide testimony

Committee 1On Tuesday, August 18, the Senate Select Committee on the Delta led by Senator Lois Wolk held an information hearing on the California Water Fix project, formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and more commonly known as the Delta tunnels project.  The hearing featured a briefing from the Legislative Analyst’s Office and a panel featuring Dr. Christina Swanson with the NRDC, Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, Former Delta watermaster Craig Wilson, and Dr. Jeffrey Michael from University of the Pacific.

Senator Wolk opened the hearing by saying that California has struggled to address the complicated issues of the Delta and water exports since before the 1960s, so this is not a new issue. “Currently, the proposed effort, the California Water Fix, proposes two massive tunnels, 40 feet in diameter each, 150 [feet] under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to divert fresh water directly from the Sacramento River, bypassing the Delta, and delivering the water directly to export facilities in the south Delta,” she said.

The tunnels project is the most expensive and controversial infrastructure proposal in California history,” she said. “After nearly 6 years of study and $200 million later, spent on analyses, many of the basic questions about the tunnels project have yet to be answered. Those questions are:

  • Will the tunnels improve the ecosystem conditions in the Delta?
  • Will the tunnels significantly impact the economy and communities of the Delta and Northern California?
  • Will the tunnels improve water supply reliability in other parts of California?
  • Will the tunnels be cost effective? Do the results justify the costs?
  • Will the tunnels meet the coequal goals established by the Delta Reform Act of 2009? How will we know?
  • Who controls the pumps and the operation of this project?

“In short, we hope to examine many of these questions with people who are experts in the area and have a great deal of experience and knowledge, and we hope by the end of the day to answer the question, are these tunnels good for California? We think that’s an important question that the public should weigh in on and should decide. These are the basic questions that Californians need to answer, especially before moving forward with a multi-billion dollar proposal.”

Senator Wolk then introduced Rachel Ehlers, principal fiscal and policy analyst with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, who then gave an overview of the Cal Water Fix proposal and the issues for legislative consideration.

RACHEL EHLERS, Legislative Analyst’s Office

Rachel Ehlers began with the reasons why the California Water Fix (or Delta tunnels) project is being proposed. “The Delta is located here in our backyard in Sacramento but has statewide importance for many reasons,” she said. “It is the largest estuary on the West Coast, both home to and migratory path to many, many native fish and wildlife species. It is an essential piece of the state’s water system; as we know, most of the precipitation in our state falls in the north and east, but much of the demand is in the south and coastal population and agricultural regions. It’s an important infrastructure corridor for roads, shipping, freight, and ports, moving goods through northern and central California. And it’s a place with a huge economic and cultural value to the state, not only for its historical communities but also for the roughly 500,000 people who live there today and farm there today.”

Rachel Ehlers LAOWhile the Delta is important, we also know it’s facing many serious challenges: an ongoing decline to its ecosystem and the native species who live there, an increase in the non-native species that are living there, a reduction in water supply reliability, and exports in recent years, not only related to the drought but also regulatory actions related to the environment and related to water quality,” she said. “The quality of water in the Delta has been affected by wastewater discharges, agricultural discharges, and saltwater intruding and there are concerns about even greater salt water intrusion with forecasts of rising sea levels in the future. And the 1100 miles of levees throughout the Delta are at great risk; they are aged and not engineered to today’s levels, the land behind them has subsided and they are at great risk for earthquakes, increased water pressure, storms, and water level rise.”

Ms. Ehlers noted that there have been many efforts to address the Delta’s challenges. Most recently, the Delta Reform Act passed in 2009, establishing two coequal goals for the Delta: improving the reliability of the water system and enhancing the Delta ecosystem while preserving the Delta as an evolving place; the legislation was very clear that those two goals would be given equal weight. The legislation also directed the Delta Stewardship Council to establish a plan to direct the overall policy in the Delta; the Delta Plan was released in 2013, emphasizing those two coequal goals.

The administration released its first draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, or BDCP, also in 2013 to address those goals of water supply reliability and improving the ecosystem. Ms. Ehlers reminded that the BDCP proposed to build two tunnels underneath the Delta to transport water through to the south, both to improve reliability and improve conditions for fish and wildlife.

The main approach that the BDCP envisioned for this was pursuing approval as a Natural Communities Conservation Plan or NCCP, which would have met the state’s endangered species act simultaneously getting federal approval on a similar approach with a Habitat Conservation Plan,” she said. “What that NCCP approach would have done is rather than looking for permits to effect each of the affected endangered species in the area, taking a more broad approach to preserve habitat for all of the species in the area and therefore getting approval to affect all of those species while helping recover through this habitat conservation, so as a piece of that, the BDCP envisioned acquiring or improving 150,000 acres of habitat for those protected species. The state and federal regulatory agencies would have envisioned receiving a 50 year permit to operate the proposed tunnels and Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.”

The administration released modifications to the original Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposal, splitting it into two different projects known as California Water Fix for the water conveyance infrastructure and California Eco Restore for the ecosystem component. “Also notable is that this new approach would not pursue that long range broad commitment to habitat restoration in exchange for a longer range permit,” Ms. Ehlers said.   “The rationale that’s been given for this is that the science at this point is too uncertain for the regulatory agencies to be able to grant that long broad-range approval. We don’t know what the affects of the changing climate will be, and really the science is still unclear on the effectiveness of habitat restoration as a means of species recovery at this point, so it was becoming clear that the assurance wouldn’t be there to pursue that long broad-range approach.”

The shift away from the NCCP led to other changes, one of which instead of the 150,000 acres originally proposed under the BDCP, the California Eco Restore program proposes to restore 30,000 acres. “It’s important to note that the vast majority of that is related to requirements that already exist, based on the projects as we already have them,” she said. “The contractors are already responsible for those 30,000 acres, and the administration anticipates that the new proposed project would result in an additional requirement of about 16,000 acres, but again that is still uncertain and would be pursuant to the regulatory requirements with the new project.

Another change is that by not pursuing the NCCP approach, the project is not pursuing a 50-year permit, Ms. Ehlers said. “Rather it would seek shorter term permits, depending on the state of the fisheries, in lieu of that kind of broad range ecosystem restoration and permit, and as a result, would also not contain the long term water supply assurance for the contractors that were included in the original BDCP.”

Ms. Ehlers noted that the new proposal modifies some of the engineering and design components, eliminating some of the pumping plants, power lines, buildings and transmission lines in the north and Central Delta in an attempt to lessen the effects for Delta residents.

She then turned to the issues and questions for legislators to consider as the weigh the proposal. “The first is, how well does this proposal align with other Delta efforts and state policy directives, such as the Delta Plan, the Delta Reform Act, and the State Water Resources Control Board’s Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan,” she said. “What is the governance and oversight over this project, not only through the approval process, but if the project is approved, for the length of the project, what entities are empowered to oversee it and to make decisions? Is that governance appropriate? How will science be incorporated? What is the adaptive management plan as we develop evolving scientific understandings? A lot of players involved, what are the roles of each of those players and do you think they are sufficient?

This leads to the next point, which is what is your role and what do you want the legislative role to be in overseeing this project?” she said. “Do you have the tools play that role right now or might there be additional legislation necessary to make sure that the legislative goals are met? Obviously it’s important to think about what are the impacts of this project on the important stakeholders, fish and wildlife, Delta residents and farmers, downstream water users; what are the benefits for each of those groups, what are the risks and uncertainties for each of those groups, are there drawbacks, how do you weigh all of those?

We know there’s a lot of uncertainty in the future,” she continued. “How flexible is this proposal to address some of those changes in the future, whether it be exceptionally dry years which we are experiencing right now or exceptionally wet years? Earthquakes, changing climate, rising sea levels, changes in population, and water and agricultural water needs? How adaptable would this proposal be for the decades to come in addressing some of those issues? And then viable alternatives are important to consider as we know that the existing conditions in the Delta are not sustainable, something needs to be done, so is this the best approach or are there other approaches that could meet the benefits that we all seek for the Delta?

And finally funding,” she said. “The administration is envisioning the water contractors will pay for the bulk of costs of constructing the Water Fix, but are we sure that the contract terms protect the state from any cost overruns? Are there other costs that could materialize? What about costs for ecosystem restoration, either related to the proposed tunnels or other conditions in the Delta and how will this interact with state responsibilities for that? So thinking about where the funding might come from and what risks there may be to the state.”

So a lot of big issues to consider; I’m glad you’ve got some good panels to help you walk through them today and of course our office is here to help you as you walk through these issues as well,” Ms. Ehlers concluded.

Wolk IntroSenator Wolk then had some questions, starting with the change in direction from an NCCP permit to a biological opinion permit. “How does that affect the implementation of the Delta Reform Act? I’m looking at governance, financing, and oversight of this project.”

The Delta Reform Act and the Delta Plan mention the BDCP by name,” began Ms. Ehlers. Senator Wolk points out that there’s no more BDCP. “I’m not sure there’s a clear answer at this point,” Ms. Ehlers continues. “In reading it, it seems pretty clear that it would be a covered action that would come before the Delta Stewardship Council to see if it’s consistent with the Delta Plan or not, but I think some of the questions are, what if they find that it’s not? Then what happens? What is their regulatory authority if they find this is not consistent with the Delta Plan? I think that’s an outstanding question at this point.

Senator Wolk asked if the voters had any role in determining if the tunnels move forward. “A comparable project is the train, which began with a measure on the ballot and an indication from the public that yes, they wanted it to move forward,” she said. “There’s no comparable vote on this, but if ratepayers are then to have a major role in determining the financing of this, where is there agreement to be had?

This is certainly something that could come before the voters as a proposition as it has in the past with the peripheral [canal] decades ago,” replied Ms. Ehlers. “At this point, the SWP as its envisioned, gives the administration the authority to make changes to improve the SWP, so that authority vests with them already. Should the voters want a say, there are means to do that, but at this point, there is no means for this to become before voter approval in order to go forward.”

Senator Wolk asked about the water districts: what’s the mechanism there for approval or disapproval?

As I understand it, this is contingent on the water contractors agreeing to pay for it to be constructed, and we’ve seen in the press that there’s some question whether there is sufficient support from the water contractors for this to move forward, but I think ultimately if they are paying the bill, then they would have to agree,” said Ms. Ehlers.

Senator Wolk noted that the BDCP envisioned that not only would there be diversion of water into the tunnels, but some water would have to continue to flow through the Delta to the pumps. So where do the levees fit into this?

Ms. Ehlers agreed that maintaining at least some of the levees is important to maintain the health of the ecosystem and the health of the water flow. “There has been some discussion of whether there are some areas and some islands that could be intentionally flooded in order to help relieve some of the pressure and help restore some of the land, and I won’t speak for the administration on their vision, but in looking at the overall health of the Delta, clearly the levees are still very important.”

Jim Frazier 2Assembly member Frazier said if High Speed Rail is any indicator, it started at $6 billion and now it’s been demonstrated to be a lot higher. “So we know that it’s going to go over projected amounts. What is the collateral and the protection for the taxpayers going forward?

I think you highlighted exactly one of the points that we think that are important to pursue as you are weighing the benefits and risks of this project,” Ms. Ehlers said. “That is, what are the contract terms, how is the state protected from potential cost overruns, and what are the agreements – that language is going to be really important (for lawyers who are not me) to get down in the weeds on that to make sure that the state is protected.”

Thank God we had cap and trade as a backstop for High Speed Rail to be able to fund that as a nexus to reduction of greenhouse gas,” said Assembly member Frazier. “What’s Plan B? Thank you.

Senator Wolk then invited the panel members forward.

CHRISTINA SWANSON, Natural Resources Defense Council

Dr. Christina Swanson began by saying that her role as a scientist is to help understand what the problems are, and then having identified those problems, to then identify the causal factors that are driving or contributing to those problems. “Part of the work that I do for an environmental non-governmental organization is based on understanding of the causes of the problems, we can now develop solutions that are likely to be effective because they are addressing the causes of the problem,” she said. “So my role as a scientist is to help make those connections so that we can develop and pursue solutions that actually will be effective and solve problems.

Dr. Christina SwansonThe first question is, is there a problem with the fish and the ecosystem now? Ms. Swanson said. “There absolutely is in the Delta,” she said. “The ecosystem is highly degraded and virtually all of the native fish populations, particularly those that live in open water habitats, are declining and have been declining for decades. This includes Delta smelt, longfin smelt, splittail, starry flounder, it also includes non-native species including those that used to be very, very common in the system. Virtually all of the fish that use the open waters of the Delta and the upper estuary, their populations have collapsed to either record low levels or near record low levels, and so we definitely have a problem here.

Currently, it’s very obvious that are current management of the system is not sufficient to support the ecosystem and these species, so from a scientific perspective so the next step is to identify the causes of these population declines,” she said. “As we’re all aware, this is a very complicated system and this is a very well studied system. The science that has been going on for decades has identified multiple causes of the declines. It is not one single thing and in fact, not one single solution will address all of the problems.

Because it is a primary physical and ecological driver in this estuarine ecosystem, the primary cause is the alterations and large scale reduction in fresh water flows – the flow into the Delta, through the Delta, and out of the Delta into the estuary, she said. “That reduction is largely the result of manmade water management operations, storage on the rivers, and diversion from the rivers and in the Delta, and it’s overlaid on the natural hydrological variation that we see in this particular system.”

Freshwater flows in an estuary are a primary physical and ecological driver; they create habitat, they drive ecological processes, including productivity, they move materials around the system, and they are essential environmental and ecological cues for the timing of reproduction and migration within the system,” Dr. Swanson said. “They really are a key element within this system and the amount of freshwater that is flowing into and through the Delta in particular, because a lot of the water is diverted in the Delta, has been reduced very, very substantially.”

On average for the past decade and a half, more than half of the freshwater that would have flowed into the Delta or through the Delta no longer does,” she said. “And one of the things that has done is it has created in the estuary essentially chronic manmade drought conditions. As far as the estuary is concerned and as far as the fish and the ecosystems there, the estuary has been in a drought, and for the past 15 years, it’s been in a very, very severe drought – meaning the levels of freshwater flow that have actually flowed into the system are less than they would have been in the driest 20% of years under normal, natural, or unimpaired conditions in 11 of the last 15 years. We’ve been having a drought for the past several years. The estuary has been having a drought for decades.

Dr. Swanson said there are other factors involved. “In the Delta in particular, the actual diversion of water kills fish at the pumps; the screening facilities at the current export facilities in the south Delta are antiquated and known to be inadequate, and in fact have impacts on the fish by causing direct mortality,” she said. “In addition, we have a very highly invaded ecosystem here. There are many non-native fish and invertebrate plant species here … they are both a symptom and a cause of problems. Most of the invasives that thrive so well in the Delta system like the conditions that we have created in the estuary; they find those conditions of low flows to be very favorable to them and because they are also unfavorable for the natives, it’s not a good situation.

We certainly have water quality problems, both in terms of toxic contaminants from herbicides and pesticides and stormwater runoff and sewage treatment plants,” she said. “In general, the effects on fish in the ecosystem for those types of insults is fairly episodic, but is exacerbated by the fact that flows that might dilute those contaminants are already low and might be lower.”

Dr. Swanson pointed out that a lot of people point to the loss of tidal marsh and floodplain habitat as one of the drivers. “But in fact most of those habitats in this system were lost 50 to 100 years ago, so there is virtually no evidence that the loss of those habitats or the absence of those habitats is in fact, driving the current fish population declines.”

With respect to the BDCP’s rationale for abandoning the NCCP approach due to the uncertainty of whether or not ecosystem restoration actions would be effective, she said: “I think this is largely the result of the selection of the types of ecosystem restoration actions that they proposed to do, which was largely restoration of tidal marsh. Floodplain habitat we have a little better understanding of and think it would be useful, but in fact, most of the proposed under the BDCP ecosystem restoration was to restore tidal marsh; most of the proposed restoration under the much smaller scale Eco Fix is also tidal marsh. The evidence that it will benefit the fish and the ecosystem is in fact uncertain, largely because there is little evidence that it’s a driver of the current declines, so in fact it’s no real surprise to me that the former BDCP was evaluated to be likely ineffective for fish, based on that.”

Dr. Swanson then turned to the tunnels project itself. “The current proposal does not include a lot of the ecosystem restoration, and as I understand it, proposes to either maintain current levels of exports or in fact, increase them based on long-term averages,” she said. “As I understand it, the California Water Fix actually suggests that they could increase compared to what the BDCP was doing, the way the result of this will be further reductions in freshwater flows to the system which cannot be beneficial; they can only be harmful to fish.”

The new diversion point in the north Delta will be screened up to the highest standard of the art right now, however, the plan proposes that exports will also continue from the south Delta which continues to be inadequately screened, she said. “What you’re really doing is you’re not improving the condition with regard to screens and diversions and exports, you’re just adding a new one – even a well-screened export facility has adverse impacts on fish, and in fact, located in the north Delta it will be impacting meaning effecting by being in the proximity of many more fish than the current south Delta facilities are.”

In fact, the north Delta is literally the only place in the Delta where we have very many native species remaining,” she said. “It’s a bit of a refuge; therefore proposals to add a new diversion point into that habitat will in fact be affecting the last refuge region within the Delta that currently supports, albeit low levels of native species. There are virtually no native fish left in the south Delta.”

Further reductions in fresh water flows from the project will exacerbate some of the other causes of problems, including invasives which thrive under these low flow conditions, as well as potentially toxics by further reducing the dilution or the assimilative capacity of the Delta, she said. “In fact, many of the analyses of both the BDCP and I’m less familiar with the details on the California Water Fix suggests that overall water quality conditions in the Delta will be degraded by this facility and by its operations.”

Dr. Swanson pointed out that one of the reasons there is as much flow in the Delta as there is right now, albeit it is too low, is because the flow is needed in order to maintain relatively freshwater conditions at the south Delta pumps so that the water is suitable for diversion. “One of the concerns that we would have is that if you in fact now relocate the diversion point to the north where the fresh water flowing into the system, that reduces at least that water quality base need for providing flows through the Delta, and that’s not only something that has potentially ecological consequences, I suspect it also has consequences for those people in the Delta and who divert water from the Delta.”

The kinds of habitat restoration that has been selected and identified as mitigation for the project or for restoration are exactly the kinds of projects for which there is very little scientific evidence that it will be beneficial to the system, she said. “So this is a pretty good example from my scientific perspective of a project which has missed the mark in regard to identifying what are the real causes of the problems here,” she said. “They’ve come up with a plan which does not address them and therefore it is unlikely to be successful at least in regards to improving conditions for fishes and the ecosystems.”

Thank you.

DON NOTTOLI, Sacramento County Supervisor

Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli began by noting that the Delta Counties Coalition, consisting of Sacramento, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo County, has appreciated the opportunity to work with Senator Wolk and others in the past as it relates to both the twin tunnel proposals and water issues generally. “This morning we come here in the spirit of acknowledging the challenges and rightly we are focused on the issue that you’ve brought clarity here this morning, but also to talk about what does the future look like.”

Don NottoliMr. Nottoli said that the Delta Counties Coalition would suggest that rather than focusing on the twin tunnels, the state look at a better approach to addressing water challenges that face California as a state, and specifically the Delta. “We’d also suggest that we devote more staffing and financial resources to developing near-term as well as mid- to long-term implementable projects that have we believe a great potential to result in immediate returns and system-wide improvements. Fixing and enhancing the existing system certainly is called for in the county’s strategy and platform.”

Supervisor Nottoli said that the Delta Counties Coalition is very concerned about the governance of the proposed project. The Coalition had been working with the Natural Resources Agency leadership and staff with the assistance of our legislative delegation in an attempt to develop a governance structure which would have provided the 5 counties with a real decision-making and participatory role that was a meaningful one, he said. “We’re very concerned now that the project has been redefined to be the California Water Fix and Eco Restore, that there doesn’t appear to be any provisions that provide a framework which would include the Delta Counties Coalition – the local governance and participation in that. We think that missing piece is very disconcerting and concerning and so we want to raise that as a real red flag.”

Supervisor Nottoli then posed the question, what does success then look like for the Delta – what specific outcomes are needed to ensure sustainable and equitable water and resource management? “In our view, success in the Delta is a healthy ecosystem which supports statewide water supply reliability and those are the coequal goals in the Reform Act, but we would put a strong emphasis as well on supporting a thriving Delta community. Sacramento County and the Delta Counties Coalition believe those values and resources which are unique to the Delta can be protected and enhanced while still meeting the statewide water supply and ecosystem restoration needs.”

He then offered some specifics. “We’ve crafted a whole list of objectives and certainly have circulated those over the last year or two, and they would include a water system operational improvements, such as projects that would facilitate through-Delta conveyance and improvements to existing state and federal water diversion facilities located in particular in the south Delta,” he said. “We would also advocate for water supply and storage projects which increase surface water and groundwater availability statewide that would be beneficial.

A more robust flood protection element that includes levee improvements to protect not only water sources but also the lands and communities as we look at Delta as a place that contributes significantly to the agricultural production, but also to the way of life and to aspects important to northern California but certainly to California as a whole,” he said. “We would advocate for regional self reliance, which would include projects promoting reduced reliance on water from the Delta, as called out for in both the Delta Plan and also in the Delta Reform Act.”

And lastly, we would advocate in restoring the Delta,” he said. “This strategy would include preserving and protecting the Delta’s economy – it’s agricultural, recreational, and cultural resources, water quality, levees, fish and wildlife and the list could go on. We acknowledge these strategies are not intended to be a fully comprehensive list of all actions necessary to meet the coequal goals; they do, however, represent a much more reasonable approach for beginning the process without making the extraordinary investment needed to implement the Water Fix, which is in current form, continues to focus on a narrow set of Delta issues centered around the twin tunnels.”

Supervisor Nottoli said it was their hope that the initial round of Prop 1 projects will be a huge step in helping to achieve the goals of increasing water supply reliability and maintaining a healthy Delta ecosystem without tying them back to the twin tunnel project. “Legislative support and funding for projects that would promote regional self reliance, such as recycled water, water conservation, groundwater cleanup and storage, and etc, are also very important,” he said. “The Prop 1 dollars could be used to fund many projects throughout the state which would enable us to achieve the goals and put some proof to the fact in looking that having better assurances for water supply and certainly in making for reliable sources of water for all regions of the state, that we would be better served by making those investments.”

The Delta Counties Coalition promotes many things that are consistent with several of the priorities included in the Governor’s Water Action Plan, except: “There’s a key one that we don’t embrace, and that is the concept of the isolated water conveyance linked to the Water Fix, and although some project impacts have been lessened in the most recent iteration, the long term-negative and lasting impacts of the twin tunnels remain, and very little has changed in that regard.”

The Delta Counties Coalition has long advocated a through-Delta approach to the movement of water, he said. “We maintain that the state and federal governments should fully analyze and evaluate the through-Delta conveyance and other alternatives, and we recommend that through-Delta improvements as a viable alternative to meeting the coequal goals.”

The development of local water supply alternatives in the areas served by the state and federal water projects, such as water use efficiency improvements, conservation, water recycling, desalination, groundwater remediation, low impact development, and conjunctive use must be included as alternatives in the Water Fix evaluations, including the current EIR/EIS,” he said. “We believe that’s in keeping with state policy to reduce reliance on the Delta.”

The counties further maintain that improving Delta levees is a critical and essential component of increasing the reliability of water supplies in the near and the long term, and are concerned about how that is addressed if in fact the twin tunnel project moves forward,” he said.

The Delta Counties Coalition has demonstrated a commitment to partnering to find a solution which would help minimize or reduce the impacts of the tunnels project on the interests of the people who live and work in the Delta, as well as people throughout the state who depend on the Delta for water. “As this committee knows, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a place of beauty, of wonder, of bounty, a place like none other in the world, and if we stop pursuing this course with regard to the twin tunnels, which would lead to the further degradation and weakening of the way of life and the economy and all that goes with the historical and cultural aspects of the Delta,” he said.

If we really do refocus on real solutions to bolster our water supply, restore the environment, and protect the future of the Delta, we will all be better served,” Supervisor Nottoli said. “We don’t believe it’s necessary to sacrifice the Delta region in order to solve the water challenges facing the state of California. And finally, I would just say, to answer your question that started this committee hearing with, are the twin tunnels the answer to the problem, are they good for California? I would simply answer, they are not good for the Delta and they are not good for California.”

Thank you.”

In the Delta Reform Act , the coequal goals were certainly enshrined there: the reliable water supply for California and protecting and enhancing the Delta ecosystem, but also with that was that they should be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational and natural resources, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place,” said Senator Wolk. “One of the concerns that I’ve had is that once there is no BDCP, what does that mean for the coequal goals and what does that mean for the very important third leg of the stool, which is essential – namely the Delta.”

Coming tomorrow …

Coverage of the hearing continues with testimony from former watermaster Craig Wilson and economist Dr. Jeffrey Michael, plus panelists answer questions from legislators.

To watch the webcast …

Click here to watch coverage of this hearing at the California Channel.

For more on the Delta tunnels …

For more coverage from Maven’s Notebook on the Delta tunnels project, click here.

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